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Languages and Translation

There are many career options to consider if you would like to use your language skills. These can be broadly categorised into jobs that directly involve the use of languages, and those where languages are important, but are not the key focus of a role.  

Although there are many occupations where languages are useful, there are only a few where they are essential. Working as a translator or an interpreter are well known options and usually require a relevant postgraduate qualification. Teaching languages in schools and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) are also possibilities. To find out more about these roles visit our Education and Teaching sector page.

Although all sectors need language speakers, there are some where knowledge of foreign languages tends to be more advantageous. These include customer service, travel and tourism, shipping and logistics, international marketing, and some areas of law and finance. Languages can also be vital in areas of the public sector such as security, armed services, Civil Service and European Union.

The Career Zone runs a range of employability schemes to help increase your work experience and networks in this area:

  • Career Zone Internship schemes - internships can be extremelyuseful, so try and get relevant vacation work or placements.  
  • Ask An Alum - a fuss-free way to connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask careers questions.  
  • Career Mentor Scheme - a popular employability scheme which matches a student or graduate with an experienced professional, for sector insight and one-to-one careers advice and guidance, over a 6-month period. 
  • Professional Pathways - a suite of sector specific training courses and paid week-long internships that take place in June.  There is a specific pathway related to International Trade which may be of interest to language speakers looking to work internationally or for an international organisation.

Videos – watch the following videos to get a feel for some of the roles within the sector:

  • How languages help in your career - video highlighting how languages can open doors to various careers.
  • Language Launchpad - features language graduates explaining how their language skills have benefitted their careers.
  • Modern Languages - videos featuring individuals in a range of careers who have either studied languages or use languages in their roles.
  • Routes Into Languages - includes a series of webinars exploring the key skills developed through learning languages and the career options open to language graduates.

Webpages – if you would like to do further research into this sector, the following webpages may be useful:

Use the LinkedIn Alumni tool to search Exeter alumni working in your sector or country of interest, as well as those that have studied languages.

Internships and work experience will enhance your chances of employment. If you are unsure of the exact area you would like to get experience in, you may wish to consider which sectors and/or employers would value your language skills. There are plenty to choose from, including international sales and marketing, finance, law, transport and logistics and food and drink to name but a few. Find where internships are advertised in those sectors by visiting the relevant sector page or look on the relevant job profile on Prospects. Remember you can also approach organisations speculatively to enquire about work experience opportunities. Use the links listed under ‘Job Vacancies’ to help with this research.

Listed below are a selection of opportunities to live and work abroad, as well as internships that require language skills. Please note this list is not exhaustive.

Volunteering

Beyond advertised internships, there are various ways to gain experience using languages. You could contact local charities and other non-profit organisations that work with non-English speakers to see if your language skills can be of use. Considering joining student societies and groups which focus on nationals from a particular country or language. For Penryn student groups visit The SU’s website . You may be able to use your skills to support events or projects.

Use the websites below to find charities and relevant volunteer opportunities:

  • CharityChoice database - browse through over 160,000 charities
  • Do-IT and vinspired - volunteering opportunities in your local area
  • International Volunteering - list of websites to help you research international volunteer opportunities.
  • Translators without Borders - non-profit organisation which offers language and translation support for humanitarian and development agencies; they promote a range of volunteering and other opportunities. 

For general information about finding graduate opportunities, please visit our Graduate Jobs page, and for a list of general job search engines please visit our general job sources page. You could also have a look at Handshake, our vacancy database with employers who are targeting University of Exeter students.  

The list below includes employers that typically recruit languages graduates and specialist language recruitment agencies/websites. If you are looking for a role that requires language skills, but which sits within a specific sector, such as finance or law, use the job vacancy sites listed on the relevant sector page. It won’t always be apparent from the job title if an employer is looking for a language speaker, so it is advisable to read job adverts and person specifications carefully.

Speculative applications / Directories

As jobs are not always advertised, it can be useful to develop your networking skills and also apply speculatively. You could use business directories and/or the Global Business Network to find potential organisations to contact.

Unfortunately, there is no single list of graduate schemes that require language speakers, and most will accept graduates from all degree disciplines. The few that do specifically look for language speakers can be found below, but please note this is not an exhaustive list. To find more schemes use the The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Look for schemes offered by European/global organisations, as these offer a higher chance of being able to use your language skills. Not all will require a second language but many want candidates with a global outlook and may offer opportunities to work abroad in the future.

If you have studied a related degree, check if your course is accredited by one of the professional bodies. Being a member of a professional body is voluntary however, it can be valuable for developing networks, continuing your professional development, and generally keeping up to date with what's happening in the sector.

The following professional bodies may be worth visiting in order to research roles in organisations where languages may be particularly useful. Many have member directories which you can use for speculative applications and enquiries.

To find sector-specific professional bodies visit the relevant sector page.  If your sector of interest is not listed on this page you may find a professional association related to it on the Directory of the Professions website.

A postgraduate diploma or Masters is usually expected to work as a Translator or Interpreter and will often increase your chances of employment, especially with international organisations. You can study an MA in Translation Studies at the University of Exeter or browse courses at other institutions on the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) website. If you don’t have professional qualifications, you may still find informal work in this field, however rates of pay will be lower than those who are professionally qualified. To learn more about professional development opportunities, review the translator or interpreter job profile.

If you are interested in working in a role where your language skills are important, but not the main focus, you are unlikely to need a specialised postgraduate qualification. You may, however, want to explore courses linked to the role or sector itself. Review the relevant job profile to find out the options available and whether a postgraduate degree is required. These profiles also provide information on professional development opportunities for each role.

If you would like to learn more about postgraduate study, please visit our Postgraduate Study information page for more information.